KENNEBUNK — Ride and decide.
No, that’s not some gimmick at your local car dealership. It’s an offensive drill that the Kennebunk High football team runs just about every day in an effort to perfect the triple option.
It involves the quarterback, Nick Emmons, and his running backs. In it Emmons has to decide, based on what the defense is doing, whether to give the ball to his fullback or pull it out and move on to options Nos. 2 or 3.
As the Rams prepare to play the Class B state championship game against Cony High of Augusta at 7 p.m. Friday at the University of Maine, it’s obvious that the attention to detail has paid off.
Kennebunk brings one of the state’s most punishing rushing offenses into the game, led by fullback Nicco DeLorenzo and Emmons. The two have combined for more than 2,100 rushing yards, a stark contrast to the pass-oriented offense of Cony and quarterback Ben Lucas, who has thrown for more than 3,000 yards.
While DeLorenzo remains Kennebunk’s top threat, Emmons’ postseason play has given opponents something else to consider.
In the three playoff games he has rushed for 335 yards, 278 in the last two. In last Saturday’s 41-14 win over Marshwood in the Western Class B final, he gained 148 yards on 33 carries, scoring three touchdowns.
“I know we haven’t seen an option quarterback like him this year,’’ said Cony Coach Rob Vachon.
And Cony might not see a performance like that Friday night. It depends on how it plays Kennebunk’s option. Marshwood and, to a degree, Westbrook (Kennebunk’s semifinal opponent), were determined to take DeLorenzo’s runs away. That prompted Emmons to keep the ball.
“It’s the option that we run,’’ said Brian Dill, Kennebunk’s offensive coordinator. “He makes his read at the handoff. If Nicco has an opening, he gives the ball to him. It’s an instantaneous read.
“But the way Marshwood was defending it, his call was to pull the ball out and keep it.’’
This is Emmons’ third year as the Rams’ starting quarterback and Joe Rafferty, in his 35th year as head coach, is confident he will make the right read.
“Nick has proven very capable as a runner,’’ he said. “I would suspect, if I was Cony, that their thinking will be like everyone’s else: stop the fullback, stop the quarterback and force the pitch.
“The thing about being an option coach is that you always expect at least one thing to be there. That’s what we bank on. Maybe a team can shut down one phase but we’ve still got two or three. Maybe you can stop two phases but we still have one more.’’
Emmons, however, gives Kennebunk’s offense a fourth option. While he may not have the statistics Lucas has garnered, he’s a pretty productive passer. On the season he’s completed 55 of 106 passes for 1,091 yards – an eye-opening 19.8 yards per completion – with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Asked if he felt Emmons was underrated as a passer, Rafferty said all that mattered is he can make plays. Trailing Westbrook 15-14 in the final minutes of the semifinal, down to a fourth-and-10 for their season, Emmons threw a 52-yard ball down the sideline to Larson Coppinger to set up a winning field goal with 5.7 seconds left.
“He’s been good when we’ve needed him to be good,’’ said Rafferty.
Emmons and Coppinger, who averages 21.8 yards per catch, have hooked up for long plays all season. In fact, they’ve been hooking up on big plays for a long time.
“We’ve been doing this since the sixth, seventh grade,’’ said Coppinger. “The chemistry we have is incomparable.’’
They have complete trust in each other. “It’s especially true on deep balls,’’ said Coppinger. “He knows my speed, where I’ll be, and he always seems to put it right there.’’
There is a risk of injury whenever a quarterback runs, especially when one carries as much as Emmons.
But Coppinger said the 6-foot, 195-pound Emmons can take care of himself.
“He’s a big guy,’’ he said. “I think there are a lot of guys who really don’t want to tackle him. He’s not afraid to put his head down and most defenders get the worst of it when he does.’’
Emmons, who will play baseball at Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire, doesn’t care how the Rams move as long as they keep going forward.
“Teams are really focusing on Nicco, who is a great player, and it’s just opening things up for me,’’ he said. “I don’t mind. I’ve gotten used to (the hits). I’ll do anything to help this team win.’’
That’s because this group, especially the 14 seniors, have been together for years.
“That’s what makes this season so special,’’ said Emmons. “As kids we came to the high school games dreaming about this. Now we’re here.’’
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: